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Qualcomm outlines plan for LTE chips

Posted: 05 Dec 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LTE  3G technology  standardisation  mobile WiMAX 

Qualcomm Inc. has laid out an aggressive roadmap for preparing engineering samples of its initial devices for the Long Term Evolution (LTE) upgrade to W-CDMA 3G technology, and expects to be sampling selected customers by the second quarter of 2009.

If it achieves this, it could be one of the first chip designers to have such a part.

Standards issue
However, Enrico Salvatori, senior VP and general manager for Qualcomm Europe, speaking at the company's inaugural European Innovation Summit Dec. 3, cautioned that commercial availability of an LTE/HSPA+ multi-mode device, dubbed the MDM9000, "still depends on a number of very uncertain factors, many of which are dependent on mobile network operators' plans and investment priorities about how and when to roll out this next stage of wireless technology."

Salvatori said there are still many uncertainties regarding the timelines for the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) promoted upgrade to current third generation networks, "almost all of which are pretty much out of our control."

He noted there are still major standardisation issues to be resolved, even though the important Rev.8 standard is due to be finalised next week, that there is still uncertainty about which spectrum ranges LTE would be deployed, and noted there are many important choices to be made on network topology.

Qualcomm's view of the latter is that operators will, at least initially, address high data traffic urban areas with LTE implementations that will work in tandem with HSPA and HSPA+ enabled networks in rural areas.

LTE convert
Qualcomm was one of the late converts to LTE technology and for long promoted its own Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) specification for next generation mobile broadband. But the company recently revealed it had abandoned development of UMB and has also raised concerns over the other 4G alternative—mobile WiMAX.

"We need to be opportunistic in this emerging area, and decided that since the market was calling for a 3GPP backed solution, that is what we would put our efforts into as well. UMB was, still is, a great technology, but we did not succeed in getting sufficient backing from the 3G network operators," Salvatori told EE Times Europe.

As to mobile WiMAX, he suggested this will not deliver the same performance as LTE, has some major drawbacks when it comes to spectrum efficiency, and the volumes and economies of scale will not be as favourable as is likely to be from LTE technology.

He also stressed that for the short to medium term, the company is focusing on chipsets to power terminals and dongles that meet the current generation HSPA and HSPA+ 3G specifications.

A recent market research report suggested that despite the increasing backing for LTE, HSPA and HSPA+ will still support 54 per cent of wireless broadband users by the end of 2015.

- John Walko
EE Times Europe

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